[This post is part of How the Trinity Changes Everything series]
In the last post, we looked at God the Father. In this post, we shift to God the Son. Here’s what I had to say:
From the beginning, the central tenet of belief in Christianity is that Jesus Christ is divine. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, eternally exists as God in human flesh. He is eternally begotten not made, and as pre-existent with the Father, He is equally God just as much as the Father is God. The Son became God incarnate, by way of a Spirit conceived virgin birth. As a divine person in the Godhead, He took on a distinct human nature contingent to His pre-existent divine nature with no absorption or confusion of the two, yet remained unified in His personhood. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, remains the God/Man for eternity as the second person of the Trinity.
- Jesus Christ is divine: From the resurrection onward, this was essentially the litmus test of whether or not one was apart of the Christian faith, see Acts 2ff. It would seem that recognition of Jesus as God (as He Himself claimed) was what propelled the church towards a Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead.
- Son of God: It should be noted that as Son of God, Jesus was of the exact same nature of God the Father, not of similar (but different) nature (a la Arianism). Jesus was not merely a god, but is God
- eternally exists: Support found in John 1:1, 14,8:58, 17:5, Colossians 1:16
- God in human flesh: This is against Docetism, which denied that Jesus became truly human, but was merely a divine emanation. A quick perusal of John chapter 1 shows the absurdity of this ancient heresy.
- begotten not made: Greek = Prototokos, used of Christ in Luke 2:7; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15,18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5. Does not necessarily mean one born first, can mean primary heir. C. S. Lewis wisely noted in regards to this that “What God begets is god; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is.” (From C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity.New York: Touchstone, 1996, 138).
- pre-existent with the Father: Again, see the chief passage in this regard, John 1:1ff.
- equally God: Throughout the Gospels Jesus claims equality with God the Father, especially radical are His claims in John, including His claim of oneness with the Father in10:30. By placing Himself in the same realm of being as God the Father, Jesus was clearly aware of not only His own divinity, but His co-equal status with the Father.
- God incarnate: Again, this is against Docetism to truly affirm that Jesus did come in real human flesh. This also stands against modern objections against the incarnation on grounds of the incoherence of the claim that Jesus (the historical man) = the Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity. As an identity statement, it has been alleged by some to be as devoid of meaning as saying a circle drawn on a piece of paper is a square (I won’t use names, but you can find the quote in John Hick, “Jesus and the World Religions,” in The Myth of God Incarnate, ed. John Hick, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977, 178.) Entire books have been written showing the errors in this line of reasoning (one could start with the Bible) but see especially Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986). As a whole this is a great defense, but the concerns in relation to the Trinity are found in pgs 205-18. It can be noted that the major thrust of the Chalcedonian definition is that the one who was born for our salvation is the same one who had been eternally begotten from the Father (Jesus Christ is the Son of God). See Donald Fairbairn, “The One Person Who Is Jesus Christ: The Patristic Perspective,” in Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective, ed. Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler (Nashville,TN: B & H Academic, 2007), 106.
- Spirit conceived: Support found in Matthew 1:13, Luke 1:35
- virgin birth: From a soterological perspective, the virginity of the one who was to bear the Son of God was fairly significant as this was how God was able to bypass the transmission of the sin nature from the male component in the relationship. This somewhat of a side note, but the humanity of Mary cannot be stressed enough. In no way does the Bible support the deification of Mary, or any sort of equal status with any member of the Trinity. The wise men came and worshipped the baby Jesus and paid little mind to Mary. From there on throughout the Biblical record, Mary is treated as faithful, but completely normal in every human sense of the word.
- distinct human nature: This is a means of denouncing monophysitism, which affirmed that Christ only had one nature.
- contingent to His pre-existent divine nature: By saying contingent this is a means of denouncing eutychianism, the misunderstanding that the natures were mixed or absorbed into one another, thereby confusing the two.
- no absorption or confusion of the two: The resolution that the church fathers arrived at the council of Chalcedon (451) is what is known as the hypostatic union, or the union of two different stases (or ousios, if you prefer) within Christ. The natures were unified in a single personal consciousness of the person of Jesus. It should be noted as well as that a single consciousness also means a single mind, which would mean denial of any divine mind/human mind combinations other than to possibly think of the human mind as existing as a subset within the divine mind, much in the same way that our conscious mind is a subset of our subconscious mind, see more in Garrett J. DeWeese, “One Person, Two Natures: Two Metaphysical Models of the Incarnation,” in Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective, ed. Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2007. For an interesting proposal of a two-minds view see Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate.Ithaca:CornellUniversity Press, 1986)
- unified in His personhood: Following from the Chalcedonian Definition of “one person, two natures” would lead to the conclusion that whatever adheres in a person Christ had one of, whatever adheres in a nature Christ had two of (DeWeese, “One Person, Two Natures: Two Metaphysical Models of the Incarnation,” 131.) It would seem that this clearly gives Jesus only one mind, although some do postulate two (again, see Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate, see Chp 6). However, DeWeese notes that on the face of it, this seems implausible, and from my background in psychology I would concur. There is emerging evidence from the studies in neurocardiology that show that the heart is capable of thought, which while not giving a person two minds, does give a person two centers of thought that somehow cohere into one consciousness. In some sense this may have bearing on our understanding of how the incarnation came about, however, there is much clarification to made here. For now, it may be best to think of the human mind as a subset to the divine mind and not a separate mind (DeWeese, “One Person, Two Natures: Two Metaphysical Models of the Incarnation,” 146.) It should also be understood that a will (meaning personal power) adheres in a person, not a nature, which leaves with the necessity of having a nuanced understanding of Christ having only one will.
- remains the God/Man for eternity: The second person of the Trinity, is eternally a person who instantiates the divine nature necessarily and a human nature contingently (DeWeese, “One Person, Two Natures: Two Metaphysical Models of the Incarnation,” 144.) This is a way of saying the divine Logos would still be the second person of the Trinity apart from the incarnation, however, once now incarnate, it seems understood that Jesus will retain His status as God/Man.